The Psychology of Communication



All I can do is assure you that the cyborg is not to be found in the realm of hypothetical eventualities and hyperbolic horrors -- it is real; it is now. Each scenario in this book encounters wearable technology; each scenario postulates a new interface, a new relationship, between the human being and technology; each scenario demonstrates how present day extensions of human ability through technology affect the shape of society; and each scenario speaks to the way we live our lives now, as opposed to the way we can expect to live our lives in some potentially disastrous future.

Steve Mann with Hal Niedzviecki, Cyborg, Page xi

I was born human.
This was merely due to the hand of fate, acting at a particular place and time. But while fate made me human, it also gave me the power to do something about it. The ability to change myself, to upgrade my human form with the aid of technology. To link my body directly with silicon. To become a cyborg -- part human, part machine. This is the extraordinary story of my adventure as the first human entering into a Cyber World; a world which will, most likely, become the next evolutionary step for humankind.

Kevin Warwick, Cyborg, Page 1

10.1 Extension Of Nervous System

Some people argue that rather than simulate natural intelligence (after all, that we already have) we should supplement natural intelligence with artificial intelligence. That is, we should shift emphasis from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Intelligence Amplification (IA), from Simulation and AI (the focus of the last chapter) to Mediation and IA (the focus of this chapter).

Mountaineers scale mountains because they are there; psychologists study people because we are here. How did we get here? The theory of evolution explains only how we got to a hunter-gatherer society. The recent shifts from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society to an industrial society to an information society have taken place in too short a time to be explained by the theory of evolution. Historical time is too short for the mechanisms of evolution to have much effect. It takes 500-1,000 generations for a survival-enhancing adaptation to become genetically encoded and we have had only about 100 generations since the birth of Jesus Christ. It is unlikely then that there is much genetic difference between our hunter-gatherer ancestors and you and I.

Alfred Russel Wallace had discovered the principle of natural selection at the same time as Darwin. Indeed, he published the same theory in the same issue of the same journal. He does not get as much credit as Darwin because he subsequently abandoned the theory. He could see no way in which adaptation to a hunter-gatherer society could explain the sophisticated modern mind.

How could a species, which evolved by adapting to a hunter gatherer society, deal with the dramatic shifts to an agricultural society, then to an industrial society, and now to an information society? This chapter presents one solution to this Wallace Paradox. During historical time, we have extended our nervous systems by developing tools for storing and transmitting information outside our bodies. The story of how we acquired those extrasomatic tools is the history of media. Thus, the history of media could be considered as a sequel to the theory of evolution. I've presented the history of media within this evolutionary framework in another book [GARDINER 2002]. Here is a condensed version of that book.

At the moment the sperm of our fathers met the ova of our mothers to create the zygote, the single cell which became us, Zog and Anu (our hunter-gatherer ancestors) and you and I were all given the conception-day gift of all the wisdom our species has accumulated over thousands of years of survival in a harsh arena plus three score and ten years to add our footnote to this wisdom. We were born wise. An important part of the conception-day gift is a means of storing information (memory) and a means of transmitting information (speech). Since a medium can be considered as any means of storing and transmitting information, Memory and Speech could thus be considered as the first generation of media.

This first generation of media is adequate for a hunter-gatherer society. We managed the transitions to an agricultural society, an industrial society, and now an information society over historical time by supplemented this first generation of media with three further generations of media. We have developed means of storing and transmitting information outside our bodies. We learned to store information outside our bodies in print and on film (second generation), to transmit information outside our bodies with telephone and television (third generation), and to both store and transmit information outside our bodies in multimedia and internet (fourth generation).

Carl Sagan distinguishes between tools which are outside the genetic code (extragenetic) and tools which are outside the body (extrasomatic) [SAGAN]. Since the storage and the transmission of information can be either extragenetic or extrasomatic, the four generations of media can be represented by the 2x2 matrix in Figure 10-1.

Note then that the development of media parallels the development of the person from animal to human (see Chapter 5) and from child to adult (see Chapter 6). It is a process of continuous discontinuity - continuous with respect to function (communication) and discontinuous with respect to structure (different media emerge in each generation).